What is Community Property?

Community property law in Texas protects property rights of spouses during a divorce.   The concept is relatively simple. Whatever a married couple acquires during their marriage belongs to the community. Of course, there are some exceptions. 

Community Property Defined

Texas defines community property by carving out non-community property.  Essentially, community property is everything except those items that are separate property.  Obviously, any property either spouse owned before the marriage belongs to that spouse as separate property.  Gifts to a spouse during the marriage become separate property.  Likewise any property that either spouse inherits during the marriage belongs to that spouse as separate property.  Finally, a judgment for pain and suffering during the marriage becomes the separate property of the injured spouse. However, any money awarded as compensation for lost wages would be community property.  Outside of these specific separate property rules, everything else is presumed to be community property.

Community Property Examples

So, the concept is pretty simple.  If a couple buys a house during the marriage, then they own it together. Both spouses have an ownership interest in it.  If they buy two cars, then they both have an ownership interest in both cars.  In a divorce scenario, all property owned by the parties is presumed to belong to the community.  The burden of proving separate property ownership falls on the person claiming the separate property.

For example, if the wife’s parents give her a car, that car becomes separate property car.  However, she must prove the gift to the court to ensure the husband has no ownership interest in the car.  Likewise, if the husband inherits property during the marriage, he must rebut the community property presumption.  He must satisfy the court the property is his separate property by inheritance.

Complications

The community property presumption is strong for Texas divorce courts.  Many, many opportunities exist to get property division wrong in a divorce.  What happens if a couple buys a house then gets married? How are retirement accounts divided? What if inheritance money is used to purchase property? How do we deal with interest and growth of inherited money or property? Community property law is as old as Texas, but after all these years, lawyers still disagree on divorce property divisions.

Conclusion

Community property law sounds simple.  However, many details and twists keep Texas divorce courts busy.  Keep in mind that many mistakes in a divorce cannot be repaired after the fact.  Once a divorce decree is entered, discovering property wasn’t properly divided can cause real headaches.  The law sounds easy, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.  Get a competent family lawyer on your side to make sure property is properly divided in your divorce.

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Youngblood Law, PLLC is a Fort Worth, Texas family law firm focusing on helping people get on with their new life by getting done with their old life.  This essay is intended for educational use only and is not a replacement for competent legal counsel.  If you are facing a family law matter, we recommend obtaining competent legal counsel like Youngblood Law, PLLC.  For more information contact us at 817-601-5345, find us on the web at www.youngblood-law.com.

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